WASHINGTON — Efforts to track the number of military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, who they are, what they are doing and what they are costing American taxpayers were all key issues that Sen. Tom Carper (D–Del.) examined today in a joint congressional oversight hearing titled “Management and Oversight of Contingency Contracting in Hostile Zones.”
“In the past five years since the war in Iraq started, thousands of American contractors and billions of dollars have gone to Iraq, but the United States government remains unable to monitor progress to ensure the money is spent efficiently, or even compile comprehensive records of all contractors in the war zone,” Sen. Carper said.
To examine war contracting issues, Sen. Carper, chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security called for this joint hearing with Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia.
Estimates on the number of contractors in Iraq range from 125,000 to 180,000, figures suggesting there are as many or more contractors in Iraq than U.S. troops.
“There is an old saying that you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” Sen. Carper said. “We in Congress are trying to oversee contracting in Iraq and other nations without our government agencies knowing how many military contractors operate in the war zones, resulting in runaway costs from waste, fraud and abuse.”
To date, the United States has appropriated nearly $630 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent nearly $470 billion on Iraq alone. A large part of that money is going to contractors involved in providing services to our troops and in reconstruction projects.
“It is unacceptable that we cannot account for all American contactors, and, unfortunately, contractor waste, fraud and abuse are all too common in Iraq,” said Sen. Carper. “We called this hearing to shed light on a dangerous lack of information from the war zone and lay the groundwork for better, more cost-effective and efficient contingency operations in the future.”
Sen. Carper noted that the H.R. 4986 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which passed the Senate this past Tuesday, contained a provision that Sen., Carper authored to combat the ongoing lack of contracting expertise in the military by improving oversight.
“This is a good start in providing training to military personnel who have great responsibility to oversee millions in contracts, but who are unprepared to ensure tax dollars are well spent and essential projects are completed,” Sen. Carper said.
Out of $57 billion worth of contracts for services and reconstruction work in Iraq, the Defense Contract Audit Agency has reported that more than $10 billion – or one-sixth of the total spent on contracts – is either questionable or cannot be supported because of a lack of contractor information needed to assess costs. To date, there are more than 80 separate criminal investigations into contracts totaling more than $5 billion.
Sen. Carper stressed in his questioning today that he wants to determine how to improve contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan, and second, how to prevent these contracting problems from happening again. He said he wanted to ensure that:
· The workforce problems caused by inadequate staffing on the contracting and contract management sides are being addressed and solved;
· The lack of training for military personnel and civilians on the battlefield is remedied before the next contingency operation;
· We capture the lessons learned and incorporate them into military leadership schools and civilian training for contracting officials;
· We planning across government on how to deal with reconstruction and stabilization crises in conflict and post-conflict areas;
· We are clear and precise about who should be ultimately charged to implement interagency, contracting activities; and
· Congress plays an active and effective role moving forward.